Ethical Businesses Spotlight: BE Happy Guesthouse!

“We wanted to partner with Free To Shine because its such a cause that goes straight to the heart.” –Juan Graham Locke

We consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have such outstanding ethical business partners both globally and right here in Siem Reap. The team behind Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel and now BE Happy Guesthouse has been one of our strongest advocates in the Siem Reap community and has supported us through not one, not two, but THREE events this year! They were our marvelous co-hosts for Vegan & Vegetarian Food Festival, our partners for our Anniversary Bike Ride and our very first Shine & Dine venue in Siem Reap!

The Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel team has been an integral part of our Siem Reap community and we could not be more excited for them and the launch of their sister hotel: BE Happy Guesthouse. Previously a wing of Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel, and the gorgeous venue for our Vegan & Vegetarian Food Festival, BE Happy has been lovingly restored and converted from an old converted colonial French guesthouse into a cute and affordable budget accommodation. It's twelve cosy and colourful rooms are perfect for volunteers or for longer-term travellers who are on a budget but still want to enjoy the incredible amenities offered by Baby Elephant such as the organic spa, saltwater pool, and newly launched Born Free Juicery.

The inspiration for the “Happy” of BE Happy was born from founders Illana Tulloch and Adam Scott’s desire to expand visitors’ views of Cambodia beyond that of hardship and celebrate it as a place of beauty and rich history. As Illana put it, “In our 4 years with Baby Elephant, we have found that a lot of people’s first impression of Cambodia is to be shocked by the poverty. We want to help to turn this around. We would like to show people that there is a lot to learn from Cambodia, and that to help people, one of the simplest ways is just to enjoy a holiday here, supporting ethically-run small responsible businesses like BE Happy. You can feel happy knowing the people you’re helping are blossoming before you.”

Aside from the amazing team and the tropical beauty of the BE Happy and Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel space, what we love most about the Baby Elephant Hospitality Group is their ethical business model. The team is committed to encouraging responsible tourism, reducing plastic use, promoting vegan lifestyles, and of course, giving back to the Siem Reap community—an ethos that resonates strongly with us here at Free To Shine.

Partnering with community empowerment organisations like Free To Shine is only one aspect of their focus on community engagement. Through their businesses, Be Happy, Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel, and Sugar Spa, the Baby Elephant Hospitality Group is “focused first and foremost on meaningful, sustainable job creation,” and aim to “empower our community and bring people together in many impactful ways”. They provide education and professional development opportunities for their staff, use local products throughout their hotels, and engage local artist for projects such as their murals and gardens.

As a ChildSafe certified business, the Baby Elephant Hospitality Group is passionate about promoting responsible tourism practices that support vulnerable children and their families. This means encouraging travellers to support vocational training and community-based initiatives rather than orphanage visits, and partnering with ethical tour companies that are “not harming the land, not harming the culture, and not harming the people.” In the words of BE Happy and Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel General Manager, Juan Graham Locke, “Any company we choose to partner with, we first look at how they treat the community. We are a business, but we want to do business in such a way that we are empowering and not hurting.”

Through their Go Green! Vision, the Baby Elephant Hospitality Group remains dedicated to sustainability and reducing their environmental impact. This means using natural soap products, bamboo and steel straws, sending their veggie scraps to local farms for feed and fertilizer, training staff on sustainability through Plastic Free Cambodia, recycling their cooking oil through Naga Earth, and using products like recycled table mats from Rehash Trash. Their dedication to their Vision means they are continuously looking for ways to become even greener. This year their focus was on reducing their plastic use. “We are already 98% plastic free, but by the 1st of October, we aim to be 100% plastic free! This means no sashays of coffee, no plastic bottles in the mini bar, or the bar, and no plastic trashbags!” explained Juan.

Whether it’s their commitment to sustainability or their dedication to community, its clear that the Baby Elephant Hospitality Group is leading the pack in ethical business practices in Siem Reap. We are so thrilled to be partners with such a dynamic and conscientious team, and look forward to the official launch of Shine & Dine Siem Reap! Starting tomorrow, 25% of proceeds from the Fish Burger and the Cambodian Veggie Curry will go back to Free To Shine to support us in our efforts to prevent sex trafficking. Stop by and check it out, your taste buds will thank you!

Photos by Antal Gabelics Photography Green LOVE wall designed by John the Plant Guy